Day: October 30, 2003

Paging Orson Welles

(Make no mistake; there will be some discussion of LeBron James in this space later today.)

All this heightened solar activity has me thinking: why isn’t anyone taking advantage of this? It’s Halloween week, for crying out loud! I don’t care so much about sporadic cell phone usage, Arctic communications being cut off, or high frequency radio being wiped out at times. What better time to put a modern version of War of the Worlds out there? It’s the perfect confluence of world (I guess solar system) events, timing, and general unease.

I’ve always been fascinated by the original War of the Worlds broadcast. A link below tells the story of the impact it had on the nation. What’s most amazing to me is how much things have changed in the space of our grandparents’ lifetimes. Less than 70 years ago, the nation was so unsophisticated and dependent on one form of communication that a clearly identified radio play could spread unsubstantiated news reports and panic across the nation in less than an hour. Other than the sophistication and communication aspects, 1938 and 2003 aren’t much different. Then, they were still struggling to shake the Depression. War was a year away in Europe, and everyone feared what the US role would be. Pearl Harbor was three years away. Today, we’re coming out of a fairly deep recession. We’re in the midst of the war on terror. 9/11 and it’s resulting uneasiness is just two years in the past. As in 1938, we wonder what America’s role in the world is and what the implications for our health, safety, and security are.

A modern War of the Worlds would never work as effectively as the original. In 1938, you had the radio and nothing else. Outside urban areas, you generally had one choice for local radio coverage. If you wanted to listen to something else, you had to manually tune around to find a signal strong enough to fill the living room. Today, if say NBC decided to do a War of the Worlds, you have 100 other stations with different coverage proving whatever is on NBC is a movie. We’re pretty sure there aren’t any advanced life forms on Mars with the capability of launching an interplanetary invasion. Lip-synching entertainers, confidence scams, or urban myths can hoodwink us. But the days when an entire nation could get totally freaked out by a piece of fiction are long gone.

I wish some enterprising writer/producer living in a cheap apartment in LA took the massive releases of energy from the sun, added some sinister, imperialistic life form, and whipped up a piece of work that even if for only a few minutes, made my skin crawl just a little when I walk out to get the mail today and look up at the sun. Lacking that, I’ll dig up my MP3 of the original War of the Worlds this afternoon. I’ll imagine myself as a teenager in 1938, living on a farm somewhere far from a big city. I sit in front of the radio with my family, working on my lessons for school while gramps and granny listen to big band music. Suddenly, an announcer breaks in talking about explosions on Mars…

NBA Diary

Tuesday might have been the real Opening Night for the NBA, but Wednesday was my Opening Night. The wife was working. The Pacers on early; LeBron vs. the Kings late. With some help from some rare evening caffeine, and the picture-in-picture button, I made it through the night.

8:00 – Pacers vs. Pistons on local TV. Scot Pollard, the hometown team, and Larry Brown. Magic vs. Knicks on ESPN. Drew Gooden and Tyronn Lue. How do I choose? Maybe I should do it based on announcers. The local team is Al Alberts (how many Alberts announcers are there?) and Clark Kellogg. On ESPN, we’ve got John Saunders and Bill Walton. Looks like I’ll be watching the Pacers game.

Loads of plot lines in Detroit. Rick Carlisle, coaching his first game for the Pacers, gets to watch his former team raise their conference championship banner he helped them win last year. Benching Jamaal Tinsley for Kenny Anderson. Larry Brown starting what could be his last opportunity to get back to the NBA Finals. Good stuff. Unfortunately neither team seems interested. 6-3 Pacers at the first time out, five plus minutes into the quarter. Eastern Conference basketball!

I flip over to ESPN and hear Bill Walton call Drew Gooden Dwight twice. Walton sucks, but I never thought he would sink to Fred White’s level. HOOOOOOORRRRIBBBLLEEEE!!!!

Clark “I Have a Metaphor for Everything” Kellogg compares the Pacers learning Rick Carlisle’s system to moving into a new house. Fascinating!

Unlike sleepy midwestern towns like Indy, games in big cities like Detroit bring out the big stars. Tonight, Kid Rock is courtside. Apparently he sang “God Bless America” before the game. I’m sure that was a touching moment rivaling the Irish tenor who sings at each Yankees game.

For the ER watchers, remember Dr. Pratt’s roommate the last couple years? The extremely large fellow who was mentally challenged after taking a bullet to the head? That actor is now doing commercials for Bank One. I wish I had known that when we secured our mortgage through Bank One. I would have asked for an autograph or something.

Coaching moves I like: Larry Brown forcing Ben Wallace to become more active on offense. He’s a phenomenal athlete. There’s no reason he shouldn’t contribute more than just rebounds. He doesn’t have to be great, just demand attention from the defense. Rick Carlisle benching Jamaal Tinsley. Tinsley has been erratic over his first two years. Kenny Anderson has reached crafty veteran status, and has played for Carlisle before. He will be steadier as the team attempts to learn a whole new offense. This is the first time Tinsley has ever not started a season opener. It’s time to figure out whether he’s the long-term answer at the point. I think this is an excellent way to challenge him to compete every minute he’s on the court, as well as take some pressure off while he learns the offense.

I said I couldn’t become a Pacers fan until Reggie Miller retires. I’m wavering on that. Reggie is still a whiny little bitch, but the Pacers have a ton of young talent. Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, Ron Artest, Jonathan Bender. I almost wish they had hired Larry Brown back just so I could watch him try to trade every player on the roster. I fear I’ll turn into my man E-bro in NoCal (which would make me D-bro in Indy). Sure, E-bro is still a Uge KU fan, but he knows more about what NBA big men have sweet drop steps than the next recruiting class. He understands the intricacies of the illegal defense call more than the race for the Big 8+4 title. The Lakers, not the Tigers, are his most hated foe. Our cable operator better carry ESPN Full Court or I’m getting the dish we inherited hooked up so I can avoid that fate.

Forget picture-in-picture, I had to switch to split screen late in the game. In New York, Tracy McGrady finally decided to start playing and the Magic stormed back to send the game into overtime. Simultaneously, the Pacers decided to stop scoring with 2:30 left and allowed Detroit to come from ten down to take a lead. Fortunately, the Pacers closed things out. They’re 1-0 since I moved to town!

ESPN is great. They switch away from overtime to show the first 30 seconds of the Cavs-Kings game. “Must show first 30 seconds of LeBron’s career!” Appropriately, as soon as they switched back to the game in New York, LeBron started going off. Serves them right.

I’m not totally buying into the LeBron hype, but I do lean towards being pro-LeBron. I like him because of his imperfections, his vulnerability, and his attitude. Jordan came into the league polished and dripping with confidence after three years of college and a superlative performance in the Olympics. He looked perfect, he played like no one before, and had a savvy that belied his age. LeBron, on the other hand, has a hint of nervousness and uncertainty about him. You can tell he knows he belongs, but he’s just not sure what to expect yet. He has that little under bite and some stubborn acne that make him seem like a kid. He’s a work in progress and I’m interested to see how it pans out. Even the young fella taking Jordan’s number tells you something about his makeup.

This whole King James thing, though, is a little much. In a couple years there are going to be little heathen kids like me that go to their grandmother’s, see her King James Bible, and think it has something to do with the life and times of LeBron.

Bill Laimbeer in the studio for ESPN? Please.

When is Carmelo Anthony going to blow his hair out and let us see the real deal?

I’ve said this before, but I think if you’re sitting in the front row at a basketball game, you’re talking on your phone, and you stand up and wave at the TV cameras constantly, you deserve to be shot. I want military marksmen in the rafters. It will be good practice for them. OK, OK, that’s a little harsh. We’ll use rubber bullets, mini sandbags, or paintballs and just put massive welts on people. That should teach them a lesson and help fight terror at the same time.

Day After Reaction:
Good gracious, I guess LeBron was ready for the NBA. Utterly ridiculous, 25 points, 9 rebounds, six assists, 4 steals, 2 turnovers. He looked steady and composed all night. After Sacramento ran out to a 19-point lead, he calmly led the Cavs back. They even took the lead in the fourth quarter before losing in one of the most difficult places to play in the league. The kid still needs a lot of work, but he’s clearly ready physically and at least for now, mentally. We’ll see how he holds up after a few bad games, or in late February when his season would normally be ending. I was struck by LeBron’s form on his jump shot. From the shoulders down, he looks exactly like Jordan. He has that 45-degree turn that Jordan always had. One foot slightly higher than the other. He even threw in an old man Jordan turnaround, fade away jumper in the first half. If he can just get the shoulders and arms to do what Jordan’s did, the shots will fall consistently.

The savior has arrived, and it looks like we get to believe the hype this time. Stay strong, LeBron! Don’t be Kobe!

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